The Best Biographies & Memoirs of October

Jon Foro on October 11, 2017

Here are a few of our favorite biographies and memoirs for October. See more of our picks, and all of the Best Books of the Month.

Endurance225Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and one of the most popular responses is one that makes parents swoon: an astronaut. This hopeful enthusiasm wanes when their son or daughter starts bringing notes home from the teacher, complaining that they have the attention span of gnat, and need to stop parkouring on school property. Mums and dads, take heart. This description isn’t far off from a young Scott Kelly, not the bookish type either, and yet it was a book he happened upon that dramatically changed the trajectory of his life: Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Kelly was so inspired by this examination of the courageous test pilots who made high speed flight and space exploration possible that he was able to channel all of his frenetic energy into achieving the goal of becoming one. Endurance traces this journey, and chronicles the year Kelly spent on the International Space Station, as well as the effects it had on his body (information NASA needs as they plan a mission to Mars). Kelly answers many of the questions we have about life in space, from the profound to the mundane (turns out astronauts give bad haircuts and unclog toilets like the rest of us earthbound peeps). He also imparts the lessons and wisdom gleaned from his extraordinary adventures. Chief among them, and especially apropos given the increasingly divisive world we live in: “Putting this space station into orbit…is the hardest thing that humans have ever done, and it stands as proof that when we set our minds to something hard, when we work together, we can do anything, including solving our problems here on Earth.” Endurance is a fascinating, moving, uplifting read. - Erin Kodicek

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Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir by Amy Tan
Paired with John McPhee's Draft No. 4 (a Best of the Month selection for September), it's been a banner season for writing memoirs. But where McPhee's recollections often focused on process and tools (though there is some fantastic stuff about inspiration and anxiety), Tan delves into the relationship between her fiction and her personal, often painful history - much of which she uncovered through investigation of family letters and other memorabilia. 

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Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig
"I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me." Ali: A Life is an unauthorized biography about an uncompromising athlete and man whose life and words resonate as much today as they did in the '60s and '70s.

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Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin
Tales of the City - a cycle of nine books depicting daily life in San Francisco from the mid-1970s on - were both notable and groundbreaking for Maupin's realistically diverse cast of characters, earning the author a venerated spot in the pantheon of LGBTQ literature. Logical Family (as opposed to "biological") recalls his journey from North Carolina to the West Coast in search of community and a sense of belonging.

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